Sydney Shields

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Sydney Shields
Sydney Shields - Sabine.jpg
Born(1888-05-06)May 6, 1888
DiedSeptember 19, 1960(1960-09-19) (aged 72)
OccupationStage actress
Height5’ 5”
Spouse(s)Allen G. Miller
Edward H. Robins

Sidney Shields (6 May 1888 – 19 September 1960) was an American stage actress active during the early decades of the twentieth century.


Sydney Shields was born on 6 May 1888 in New Orleans, Louisiana,[1] the first of five children to be raised by her parents, Bernard C. and Elizabeth "Bessie" M. (née Smallwood) Shields.[2] Her father was an attorney and accountant who over his career served as a Louisiana State Legislator, New Orleans City Council member, director of New Orleans Public Schools and Assistant Secretary of the Board of Liquidation City Debt of New Orleans.[3] Shield’s mother was one of the first female press agents in the United States and an accomplished actress who had performed with Minnie Maddern Fiske, Joe Haworth and Sydney Armstrong.[4]

Sydney Shields first took to the stage as a young girl in vaudeville acts with her mother, two brothers and two sisters (Benn, Bernice, Santos and Sarah) performing for the Baldwin-Melville Company of New Orleans. When she was replaced by a younger sister after it became apparent she had grown too tall to play children’s roles like Little Lord Fauntleroy or Little Eva, Shields quit the stage and found work as a reporter for the New Orleans World. There she reported on stories big and small covering crimes, politics and the occasional fire. Shields also found the time to write a daily fairytale for the newspaper and pen a Sunday gossip column called "I Know a Girl". At some point she added theater critic to her resume writing reviews of plays and vaudeville shows playing in New Orleans.[5]

Shields was enticed back onto the stage when she traveled to New York with a number of vaudeville skits she had written and hoped to sell.[5] By 1910 she was touring vaudeville with her own company performing with actor/writer Allen G. Miller whom she married at some point.[6][5] In 1913 she was picked to play a starring role in Reckless Age, produced by Cecil B. DeMille shortly before he made his move to film.[7] Her New York stage debut came two years later in the failed play What Money Can’t Buy[8] that could not buy an audience and closed after only eight performances. Over the next several seasons though, Shields would appear in such Broadway productions as The Fear Market (1916),[9] If (1917),[10] The Case of Lady Camber (1917) [11] and Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1917/18).[12] In 1918 Shields joined the Over-There Theatre League that, in December of that year, became the first company of American actors to tour postwar Europe.[13] Very early in her career Sydney appeared in at least two silent films and then apparently decided to remain on the stage.[14]

After the war Shields appeared in another half dozen Broadway productions between 1922 and 1934. She was most likely best remembered by audiences of that period as Walker Whiteside's leading lady for seven season in road productions that toured the nation.[15]

Shields' second husband was actor Edward H. Robins (1880–1955) whose mother witnessed the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln. Robins’ long acting career began in 1900 and lasted well into the 1930s before he chose to go into directing and working with the Actors' Equity Association. The couple married sometime after 1920 and probably separated before his death, for neither is mentioned in the other’s New York Times obituary.[16][4]

Shields died on 19 September 1960 while a patient at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York.[15]


  1. ^ US Passport Application (Ancestry. Com scan
  2. ^ 1900 US Census (
  3. ^ Mount, May W. (1896). Some Notables of New Orleans: Biographical and Descriptive Sketches of the Artists of New Orleans, and Their Work. Mew Orleans. pp. 82–86.
  4. ^ a b "Mrs. B. C. Shields, Once Actress Dies". New York Times. July 1, 1932.
  5. ^ a b c "When Sydney Shields Played Child Roles". Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts. September 19, 1920. p. 45.
  6. ^ Iowa Unionist. Des Moines, Iowa. April 14, 1911. p. 11. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Birchard, Robert S. (2004). Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-8131-2636-4.
  8. ^ “What Money Can’t Buy” – Internet Broadway Database
  9. ^ “The Fear Market”– Internet Broadway Database
  10. ^ “If” – Internet Broadway Database
  11. ^ “The Case of Lady Camber”– Internet Broadway Database
  12. ^ “Parlor, Bedroom and Bath”– Internet Broadway Database
  13. ^ "What News On The Rialto?". New York Times. November 17, 1918. p. 44.
  14. ^ Sydney Shields, Internet Movie Database
  15. ^ a b "Sydney Shields, 72, Long an Actress". The New York Times. September 21, 1960. p. 37.
  16. ^ "Edward H. Robins, Stage Actor Dies". The New York Times. July 29, 1955.

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